Ebola: An Opportunity for Public Diplomacy

by PSA Staff | August 5th, 2014 | |Subscribe

This original article can be found at the Globalist news blog. This article was written by Tara Sonenshine, a former member of PSA’s Advisory Board and former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is currently distinguished Fellow at the George Washington University.

Ebola: An Opportunity for Public Diplomacy

The arrival of two Americans on two separate planes in isolation chambers, met by Atlanta doctors in suits and gloves, has caused fear in the United States about the spread of an Ebola virus. Citizens everywhere are watching this unfolding drama as we would a science fiction movie, only this is real and immediate.

According to the World Health Organization, the virus has infected more than 1,300 people. Near 900 have died, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. That is far less than other contagious diseases, but with no vaccine as yet and no cure, those numbers could rise very quickly. In an age of modern transportation, we are all potential carriers or victims.

Rather than view the Ebola outbreak as a reason to worry, let’s see it as a public diplomacy challenge and opportunity. (more…)

Looking for Bright Spots in Africa

by PSA Staff | August 5th, 2014 | |Subscribe

This original article can be found at The Hill newspaper blog. This article was written by Tara Sonenshine, a former member of PSA’s Advisory Board and former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. She is currently distinguished Fellow at the George Washington University.

Looking for Bright Spots in Africa

How ironic that as Washington hosts the largest gathering of African heads of state in recent times, an outbreak of the Ebola virus threatens the western part of the continent. One has to hope that disease does not eclipse the good news stories coming out of Africa — a continent with its share of problems.

Last week, President Obama hosted a town meeting with 500 emerging African leaders chosen to come to U.S. universities and colleges for summer training in everything from healthcare to good governance. (Fifty-thousand applied to come.) The new Mandela Fellowship for Young African Leaders is part of a broader initiative known as YALI (Young African Leaders Institute) which networks the best and the brightest in Africa in an effort to boost skills in business, government and education. The YALI initiative is an important step and the enterprise has drawn private companies and foundations who are contributing to bringing more young change agents from the continent. (more…)

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

by PSA Staff | July 23rd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at George Washington University and former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in the The Hill Contributor’s Blog.

A civilian aircraft is shot down over the border between Russia and Ukraine, wreckage burning on the ground. Two hundred ninety-eight innocent souls lost. In another quadrant of your screen, outgoing rockets from Gaza meet incoming missiles from Israel along the border as Israeli ground troops seek to destroy tunnels connecting the areas. Cut to the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people are streaming across to escape life in Latin America, facing uncertain conditions. Pause before watching scenes of insurgents marching toward Baghdad. They came over porous borders with Syria.

Everywhere you look, a boundary is in dispute at a time when we supposedly live in a virtual e-everything world with no borders. The question arises — what role do borders serve? (more…)

A World Hungry for Food and Solutions: Why We Need Food Diplomacy

by PSA Staff | April 28th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. She also served as U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and is currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University. This article was originally published in GW Planet Forward.

A World Hungry for Food and Solutions: Why We Need Food Diplomacy

If there is one truly global issue that unites people and divides them it is food. Food security—or lack thereof, is today on the top of every nation’s priorities including our own. Simply put: There is not enough food to go around in a world that is likely to house 9.6 billion people by 2050. Food insecurity—where someone in the household literally has to reduce food intake—affects people in the United States, Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East.

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Taking Disability Seriously

by PSA Staff | February 26th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine advises World Learning and is currently a Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University. She served as a member of PSA’s Board of Directors. The article was co-written by Don Steinberg. The article was originally posted in Foreign Affairs magazine.

Taking Disability Seriously

Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie remembers having to crawl on the ground to enter her school in Ghana because there were no ramps for disabled students. At times, she even had to urinate on the floor; it was just too difficult to make it to the bathroom. Sefakor’s parents understood that their polio-stricken daughter would be out on the streets begging if she didn’t get an education, though, so they pushed her to stay in school. And she did. Today she is a graduate student and Ford Fellow at the School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute in Vermont. She also advocates for disability rights, particularly for those held back from education by lack of physical access.

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The Confusing State of the World

by PSA Staff | January 27th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, a former PSA Board of Directors member, and currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. This article was originally published in the Washington Times

Pseudo-states and Strange Bedfellows Blur Borderlines

Were it not so deadly serious, it would be satirical. The United States is losing its sense of geospatial positioning. We may be one of the few “countries” left in the world — replaced by a series of pseudo-states, groups and strange bedfellows.

Imagine having to teach geography in 2014, let alone understand it. That spinning globe we used to use, with color-coded countries and bright borders, national flags and easy-to-pronounce places hardly seems useful. We may need a 2014 Guide to Groups within Countries.

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Why the Central African Republic Crisis Is a Security Problem for the U.S.

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Madeleine Albright is Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and member of PSA’s Board of Advisors. She served as the 64th Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. This article originally appeared in Defense One.

Why the Central African Republic Crisis Is a Security Problem for the U.S.

Americans can take a measure of pride this holiday season in the recent trip undertaken by their United Nations representative, Ambassador Samantha Power, to the strife-torn Central African Republic, a country wracked by violence directed against civilians by Muslim and Christian mobs.

During her time on the ground in the CAR, Ambassador Power conveyed three core messages.  To the country’s transitional authorities, she insisted that they do everything possible to heal the wounds that have opened and to protect their citizens from attack. The responsibility for peace and stability, she argued, begins with them.

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The North American Global Powerhouse

by PSA Staff | July 22nd, 2013 | |Subscribe

George Shultz is a PSA Advisory Board Member and a former secretary of labor, Treasury and state, and is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal.

The North American Global Powerhouse

Discussions of rising economies usually focus on Asia, Africa and the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China. But what may well be the most important development of all is often overlooked: the arrival of North America as a global powerhouse. What’s going on?

The North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas in 1992. It was ratified in the U.S. thanks to the leadership of President Bill Clinton in 1993. Since then, the integration of the three economies has proceeded at a sharp pace. Consider:

The three countries constitute around one-fourth of global GDP, and they have become each other’s largest trading partners. Particularly notable is the integration of trade. A 2010 NBER study shows that 24.7% of imports from Canada were U.S. value-added, and 39.8% of U.S. imports from Mexico were U.S. value-added. (By contrast, the U.S. value-added in imports from China was only 4.2%.) This phenomenon of tight integration of trade stands apart from other major trading blocks including the European Union or East Asian economies.

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The War on Tusks

by PSA Staff | July 11th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Tara D. Sonenshine is the US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and a former PSA Board Member.  This article originally appeared in National Geographic.

The War on Tusks

Tusks up–in some parts of the world that means good luck; a saying full of irony considering the unfortunate plight of elephants today. Depending on your culture, elephants also convey strength, power, wisdom and patience. Whether in India, Africa or other lands, they are important and meaningful—and today they are receiving the global attention they deserve.

This month President Obama issued an executive order targeting the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks (and those of rhino horns and other products) promising a $10 million effort and a national presidential task force to increase anti-poaching efforts.  Building on what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began in 2012 as a global crackdown on illicit trade of wildlife, the President vowed to rein in the growing black market for illegal animal products, which experts estimate has reached an annual business of 7-10 billion dollars.

The threat posed by this lucrative trade is not only environmental. It is a security and counterterrorism issue for the United States and many other countries. There is mounting evidence of links between wildlife crime syndicates and terror groups, with traffickers bankrolling rebels and their militias, conducting military-style assaults on elephants and terrorists funding their violent agenda through the burgeoning market for luxury goods, religious articles, carvings and medicines.

The White House action came as new scientific research opens major possibilities for determining the age of elephant tusks—a key part of the poaching puzzle.  Reported by theProceedings of the National Academies of Science, the research on tracking the age of ivory uses atmospheric nuclear weapons testing residue from the 1950s and 1960s to connect the dots on the age of elephant tusks.  In what is akin to the DNA breakthrough on crime solving, this new research could help law enforcement and other agencies determine when the killing of an elephants occurred—a tool in citing violations of the 1989 ban on African elephant killing for tusks.  The mere fact that carbon footprints from radiation from nuclear testing can be linking to elephant footprints is an astonishing scientific leap that will also help in tracking the numbers of traffickers since estimates of poaching comes from examining elephant carcasses.

The world is waking up to the plain fact that we are losing elephants fast.  National Geographic’s  2012 cover story on “Blood Ivory” detailed a decade of poaching that hit a high in 2011, having the greatest impact in the central Africa region.  According to experts at Columbia University, we have only 400,000 elephants left in the wild.  30,000 elephants are killed each year. A public education awareness campaign must be waged worldwide to target the demand side of the elephant equation. Consumers have to understand that ivory comes from a dead elephant’s tusk and that without an end to the purchase of these products, we simply cannot win the war on trafficking.  Media campaigns like those spearheaded by National Geographic, WildAid, the World Wildlife Federation and hundreds of other conservation groups are critical.  The involvement of Hollywood figures like Jackie Chan have helped the wildlife trafficking issue to gain traction as has the work of athletes like Yao Ming.

In the end, this war will be won through changing hearts and minds—or in other words, public diplomacy.  We need education to reinforce the principle that killing animals is not cool and that the crime of poaching will lead to serious consequences.Whether it is good luck, wisdom or patience, elephants are vital to our planet and must stay front and center in the global mindset until their slaughter is stopped.

A Promise Renewed: A Great Global Ambition and Every Father’s Dream

by PSA Staff | June 18th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Anthony Lake is the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a former American Diplomat and political advisor. He is a former member of the PSA Advisory Board.  This article was originally published on the Huffington Post Blog.

A Promise Renewed: A Great Global Ambition and Every Father’s Dream

What will you be doing this Father’s Day?

Reading homemade cards? Playing catch with your kids? Grilling in the back yard with the family?

We often take such simple pleasures for granted. But, elsewhere, millions of fathers around the world will struggle to help their children survive and thrive.

In our respective roles, we meet these fathers — in remote villages, bustling cities, and refugee camps. They tell us inspiring stories of their fight to care for their families, but also the heartbreaking accounts of much-loved sons and daughters who have lost their lives to preventable diseases like malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and HIV.

Every year, 6.9 million children under five die from these and other causes. 19,000 every day. That is equivalent to a stadium like Madison Square Garden filled to capacity.

Even crueler is the geography of fate. A child in sub-Saharan Africa is over 14 times more likely to die before reaching her or his 5th birthday than a child in the United States.

These deaths are more than a tragedy for individual children. They shatter families, diminish communities and hold nations back from progress and prosperity.

But amidst these sad statistics, there is cause for hope. Increasingly, innovations — new products, new technology and new applications of existing technology — help us reach the most disadvantaged communities and the most vulnerable children quickly and inexpensively.

For example, there are groundbreaking long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that drastically reduce the number of children who die from malaria.

Or the three-drug regimen in one pill daily for pregnant women living with HIV. It protects their own health and helps prevent their babies and partners from HIV infection.

Or new vaccines to prevent pneumonia, diarrhea and cholera.

Thanks to innovations like these, we have an unprecedented opportunity to virtually end preventable child death. And we can do it in a generation.

To reach this goal — one year ago — the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the U.S., with UNICEF’s support, rallied the world behind the Child Survival Call to Action. It inspired a global movement — Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. Momentum continues to build and, today, 174 countries and over 400 civil society and faith-based organizations have taken up the charge in their own commitments.

In Zambia, First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba is helping to roll out a plan focused on nutrition and immunization that will save more than 26,000 children each year. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ministry of Health is implementing a plan to save half a million children by 2015. This includes distributing pre-packaged family kits that contain medicines and other supplies to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections.

Similar initiatives are underway in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Yemen and beyond, where governments, civil society and the private sector are mobilizing to fulfill the promise to give every child the best possible start in life.

In today’s world, great global ambitions require strong partnerships between the public and private sector. In India, a small pharmaceutical company is developing a new zinc syrup to help get a life-saving treatment for diarrhea into rural communities. Through the Helping Babies Breathe Alliance, private sector entrepreneurs and medical professionals are training and equipping over 100,000 health workers in 54 countries with life-saving tools such as affordable resuscitation equipment. The results are impressive. A study from Tanzania showed that these tools led to a 47 per cent drop in newborn deaths during the first 24 hours of life.

For the first time in history, we have the tools to end preventable child deaths. Now, we need to build the momentum.

Through new partnerships and a relentless focus on results, we can give fathers everywhere the same opportunity that so many of us will have today: to watch our children grow and thrive; to cheer them at a ball game; to nurture their curiosity; to support their dreams and take pride in their achievements. Isn’t that what every father wants for his child?

Co-authored by Rajiv Shah, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.